It has been 15 years since I started my journey to co-found True Colors United with my dear friends Cyndi Lauper and Lisa Barbaris. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to lead and grow True Colors United as its first Executive Director & CEO over the past decade and a half. I am even more grateful for the role True Colors United has played in fundamentally shifting the approach to ending youth homelessness in America and our growing efforts to expand our work globally.
As is true for many of us, the ongoing pandemic has provided space for me to reflect on my life – past, present, and future – and I have decided that it is the right time for me to embark on a new journey.
On June 30th, I will be departing True Colors United to begin the next chapter of my story at a time when True Colors United is ready to begin its next chapter as well.
When we started True Colors United, one of my top priorities was to ensure that it would be a strong and resilient organization that could sustain and grow our impact to achieve our vision of ending youth homelessness. After 15 years, I am so proud of what has been accomplished so far and how well positioned we are as an organization. True Colors United’s programs are driving real change at the local, state, national, and international levels, while being supported by our operations team who ensure a strong infrastructure. True Colors United is financially strong and stable while continuing to grow nine revenue streams to ensure the resources to perform this vital work. This is work that would not be possible without the generous support of each of our donors.
My other top priority was to ensure that True Colors United shakes up the status quo in order to drive innovation that will actually end youth homelessness. For decades, the United States’ primary approach to youth homelessness had been rooted in crisis response that focuses on meeting the short-term needs of young people. I’m proud of the work True Colors United has done to strengthen communities across the country, identify root causes and contributing factors to youth homelessness, and prioritize implementing long-term solutions that are essential to ending the problem once and for all.
For far too long, the needs of LGBTQ and BIPOC youth experiencing homelessness were an afterthought in this country. Now, they’re increasingly at the heart of the solutions being put into place in communities nationwide and young people are playing a leading role in driving that change. This fundamental shift has been one of the most transformative outcomes from True Colors United’s work over the last decade.
One of the guiding principles of our work is that we meet people where they’re at. Whether it’s a service provider helping create safe spaces for LGBTQ youth or a government leader whose support is needed to enact policy change, True Colors United always assumes best intentions with the goal of helping people do better tomorrow than they are today.
We have helped countless numbers of people do better and be better when it comes to ending youth homelessness. And that work would not be possible if not for the True Colors United team – a team which reflects the population of youth experiencing homelessness in America. As each new person adds their expertise and perspective to the organization, our impact only grows.
As I reflect on my life and motivations to start True Colors United, I’m transported back to 1989. At the age of 14 I found community service – or it found me – either way I found my lifeline. I was a lost and lonely young person, stuck in the closet and so often bullied in my small, conservative town on Long Island. I was transformed from an extremely extroverted child to an isolated teenager to shield me from hurt and shame.
I am confident I would not have survived high school without the sense of purpose that community service brought to my life. It was a bright light in what felt like a tunnel of despair at the age of 19 that kept me from taking my life during a debilitating period of depression. I learned there was a way that each of us can help make the world a better place even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. As I overcame the depression, I committed myself to ensuring that every LGBTQ young person – or any one society deems “different” – never has to experience the same pain and hurt that I and too many others have endured.
Co-founding and leading True Colors United over the past 15 years has been the greatest privilege of my life. I am grateful to so many people – most notably Cyndi and Lisa for your unwavering friendship and partnership, our Board of Directors, the entire True Colors United team, the young leaders we work with, our partners, funders and supporters. The work we have done and will continue to do together is having a transformative effect on ending youth homelessness around the globe.
While the next several months will be a rollercoaster of emotions, I look forward to continuing to work with the True Colors United’s Board of Directors and staff to ensure a smooth leadership transition. Our Board established a Search Committee and retained the services of Koya Partners to select the organization’s next Chief Executive Officer. More information about this process will be announced soon.
We still have a long way to go to ensure a society where we are all free to be our true selves and where everyone has a safe, stable place to call home. Nonetheless, we have made tremendous progress that can seem hidden at times. It is still there, ready and waiting to be built upon by each and every one of us in our own unique ways.
At my core is my belief in the power of humanity. We spend so much time focusing on the harm humanity causes, losing sight of the greater positive role humans play in making this world a better place. Over the last 15 years, I’ve seen how people can show up in the most beautiful ways for each other. And what I am most grateful for are the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet. Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned have been from those whose beliefs and identities differ from mine. We live in complicated times, but I hold strong in my faith that we can all learn from each other and create the world we deserve together.
Executive Director & CEO
True Colors United